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89 JUNE 2006
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The therapeutic triad

Ashley Heslop

1. Genuineness
Genuineness refers to a set of counsellor attitudes and behaviours essential to a high level counselling process. A counsellor can learn to be genuine by having a behavioural understanding of what it is to be genuine, together with a moral quality which is essentially a human value. In the therapeutic triad, genuineness is an important part of a communication process. The genuine person is one who simply tries to be himself/herself. This person is comfortable with all of his/her interactions, and does not have to adapt or change roles in order to be acceptable to others.

In relation to counselling, Rogers and Traux describe genuineness as follows: “The therapist is what he/she is during the encounter with the client. He/She is without facade. It involves the element of self awareness and is able to communicate his/her feelings appropriately. It means that he/she comes into a direct encounter with his/her client, meeting him/her on a person to person basis. It means that the counsellor is being himself/herself, and not denying himself/herself.”

In short, the basis for the entire therapeutic process is the establishment of a genuine relationship between the counsellor and the client. The degree to which the counsellor can be honest with himself/herself and thus with the client establishes this basis.

Some of the qualities which go to make up genuineness are:

Professional role: Relating to others and helping others are part of the life of a counsellor. Thus, at best, counsellors should be “role free”, which means that a counsellor should not use a facade to protect himself/herself or in any way “fool” a client.

Spontaneity: A genuine person is spontaneous and free – but not impulsive. A skilled counsellor is tactful, does not put a “filter” between his/her inner life and what he/she expresses to others, and is assertive in the counselling process without being aggressive.

Non defensive: The genuine person is non defensive and is aware of his/her strengths and limitations. When a client is deliberately negative in attitude towards the counsellor, he/she continues to understand what the client is thinking and feeling, and continues to work with him/her. Thus a genuine counsellor is at home with himself/herself and can examine negative criticism honestly.

Consistency: A genuine counsellor has few discrepancies, and does not have one set of values for each situation he/she is confronted with. A genuine counsellor is tactful, and this springs from the strength the counsellor has within himself/herself.

Self-sharing: The genuine counsellor is capable of deep self-disclosure. This self sharing is done at the appropriate time in order to help the client. It should be done in order to achieve goals in the counselling process. The openness of the counsellor also permits the client to risk himself/herself. Thus the counsellor opens up his/her defences to make the whole relationship an authentic one “which is an important stage in building authenticity in life.

2. Non-Possessive Warmth
This term is used to describe sensitivity, friendliness and consideration on the part of the counsellor. Showing personal warmth is basic in an effective counselling relationship. Carl Rogers prefers to call this quality “unconditional positive regard”. Traux and Carkhuff found that non-possessive warmth is effective as a counselling ingredient and that the higher the level of this variable, the more evidence of constructive personality change was noted in the clients. Consideration for the client is rooted in the fact that the client is a person and should be respected as such.

This conveys to the client that he/she is worthy of respect and is important to the counsellor – and not “just another patient” in the day’s schedule.

Non-possessive warmth also expresses the counsellor’s willingness to “be there” for the client. Raush and Bordin suggest that there are a some critical components involved in communicating non-possessive warmth.

These include the counsellor’s commitment, the counsellor’s effort to understand the client, and spontaneity. The three components indicate that it is the counsellor’s effort to understand the client which communicates respect and warmth, and which is the major tie between the counsellor and the client. A counsellor who communicates non-possessive warmth and understanding has the greatest success in counselling. In the final analysis, it is the client’s experience of non-possessive warmth that really matters.

3. Accurate Empathy
The very heart of counselling is the relationship which develops between the client and the counsellor. It is through this relationship, the intense and personal experience of real contact with another human being, that a client will be able to set his/her feelings in order, regroup attitudes and reassert his/her personality. Hopefully it will be a more integrated person who emerges from this healthy contact with another member of the human family.

Central to the counselling relationship is the attitude and skill of accurate empathy. Empathy is the ability to see the world through the other’s eyes, or in the words of Traux: “sensitivity to current feelings, and the verbal facility to communicate this understanding in a language attuned to the client’s current being.”

Thus, as the counsellor explores with the client previously unexplored areas in the client’s life and relationships, it will be the counsellor’s empathy that overcomes the alienation and isolation which the client experiences.

Accurate communication of empathy is the movement to levels of feeling and experience deeper than those expressed by the client, but which the client can use to understand and accept him/herself.

Empathy involves the counsellor’s ability to experience the feelings and experience of the client, to reflect upon this experience while suspending his/her own judgments and tolerating his/her own anxiety, and to communicating this understanding to the client. Adler recognises this experience of accurate empathy as one of the creative functions in human personality.

It is the manner of the counsellor, not his technique or theory, which communicates accurate empathy and fosters growth. The counsellor can best convey his/her understanding of the client’s situation by being fully human himself/herself – and not just reacting mechanically or just intellectually understanding the client’s problems.

A person is accurately empathetic if he/she can look into the other person's world through the perspective of the other, and get a feeling for what the other’s world is like, and communicate to the other this understanding in a way that shows the other that the counsellor has picked up his/her feelings and the behaviour and experience underlying these feelings.

This feature: Extract from Heslop, A. (1992). Qualities of the effective counsellor. The Child Care Worker. Vol. 10 (6) pp.10-11

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